In a recent study, researchers found that a 10-minute, one-time burst of exercise could measurably boost people’s brain power, at least temporarily.
Previous research has shown that 20-minutes of a single bout of exercise or a long-term (24-week) exercise program could show brain-health benefits.
But this is the first study showing that even 10 minutes of aerobic activity can boost the parts of the brain to improve concentration and problem-solving.
The research was conducted by a team from Western University in Canada.
In the study, participants either sat and read a magazine or did 10 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise on a stationary bicycle.
Following the reading and exercise session, the researchers used eye-tracking equipment to examine participants’ reaction times to a cognitively demanding eye movement task.
The task could challenge brain areas responsible for executive function such as decision-making and inhibition.
The team found that people who had exercised showed immediate improvement.
Their responses were more accurate and their reaction times were up to 50 milliseconds shorter compared with the performance before the exercise.
It represented a 14% gain in cognitive performance.
The team says many people can’t commit to a long-term exercise regime because of time or physical capacity.
This finding shows that they can cycle or walk briskly for a short duration, even once, to get immediate benefits.
For older people in the early stages of dementia who may be less mobile, the finding is very encouraging.
The team suggests that people who do work that is cognitively demanding may get some exercise first.
Future work needs to determine how long the benefits may last following exercise.
The lead author of the study is Kinesiology Prof. Matthew Heath.
The study is published in the journal Neuropsychologia.
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